With a burst of yellow, Indians mark Basant Panchami

February 8th, 2011 - 6:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) Mustard fields danced in the wind, hundreds of thousands took a holy dip in rivers, young men and women sought the blessings of Saraswati, the goddess of learning…For it was Basant Panchami, the day Indians mark the onset of spring.Be it in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in the north or West Bengal and Bihar in the east, the colour yellow was the leitmotif of Tuesday’s festivities.

If one of the biggest congregations was in Sangam - the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati in the pilgrim town of Allahabad - then many also assembled at the Tattpani hot springs in Himachal Pradesh for a bath.

“Lakhs of devotees have taken the holy dip since early morning at Sangam,” said an official of the Allahabad district administration.

In rural Punjab, people basked in the glory of yellow mustard fields. Youngsters and children could be seen flying kites - and many of the kites too were yellow!

People across West Bengal offered ‘anjali’ or special prayers to Saraswati, the goddess of learning, amid the chanting of hymns and booms of the ‘dhak’ drums. Many homes install small idols of the goddess and she is also worshipped in public marquees and educational institutions.

“Wearing yellow or saffron coloured clothes, we line up to seek the goddess’ blessings. And the tradition is not to touch books on this day,” said Anushua Mukherjee, a young college student in Kolkata.

Typically, Bengalis keep their books in front of the goddess’ idol for her blessings. Many children also write their first words on this day.

Hundreds of devotees, many from states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand, assembled in Tattpani in Himachal Pradesh to take a holy bath at the hot water sulphur springs.

A fair was held at the famous Sikh shrine of Guru-ka-Lahore in Bilaspur district. It’s believed that Sikh Guru Gobind Singh’s marriage was solemnised at this village on Basant Panchami.

In Jharkhand, where it is a government holiday, many tribal students collected money for the Puja.

“Students pray to goddess Saraswati to do well in studies. Idols are installed and prayers performed as per Vedic rites. On the next day, they are immersed in rivers or ponds,” said Shashidar Mishra, a priest.

Not many know that Basant Panchami has special significance for the Radhasoami sect - for the faith was founded on this day 150 years ago.

One of the biggest congregations was in Agra where the ’samadhi’, or memorial, of its founder, Huzur Maharaj, lies in Dayalbagh.

Agra had another reason to celebrate - the birthday of 18th century poet Mian Nazir Akbarabadi, the “people’s poet”. The modest tomb of Nazir was lit up as admirers queued up to pay homage to the poet, who sang of love and the life of the common man in Agra.

Heralding a season when flowers begin to bloom and trees catch a new shade of green, Basant Panchami was celebrated in myriad ways.

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